Innovation You

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Sync It Up

'The art of making art is putting it together.'

“Having just a vision's no solution, everything depends on execution
The art of making art is putting it together” (Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George)

In the old television series Star Trek, the Klingon’s were portrayed as a war mongering race focused on destroying Starfleet, the peacekeeping force for the United Federation of Planets. Beastly and cunning, the dusky marauders would capitalize on every fortuitous situation where they had a strategic advantage over lesser rivals. While their warbirds, predatory starships armed with spectacular weaponry and cloaking technologies, were impressive, the most remarkable of Klingon attributes was their ability to synchronize complex strategic maneuvers and to carry them out in difficult situations. Every Klingon knew their role and responsibilities and the measures of victory or failure. Their appraisal of leaders was brutal and frank, usually accurate, and those who failed to execute the wishes of the Empire met that same fate. In our world, those who create like Klingons make short work of those that stumble and mumble like Starfleet officers. While the sensitive soul moves us toward the sublime the possessive ego drives us ever onward in determined action where we willfully vanquish our foes and accomplish our goals.

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Aristotle defined art as the organized task of production. While he noted the role of the fantastic in the creative act it was the craft of application and integration that commanded most of his attention. While isolation can be illuminating, we perform in ensembles like the Cirque du Soleil where we practice our trade with high performing freaks connected only by the pulsing continuity of the shared soundtrack.  It is in our communal actions that radical vision (Create), focused goals (Compete), shared values (Collaborate) and integrated processes (Control) become manifest and mated and produce their progeny. We bind them together to bring the psychological to the social, the emotional to the intellectual and the spiritual to the physical. It is through this participation and coordination that the strange and latent deep within us becomes manifest and familiar. This revelation appears to others through our actions and is substantiated by artifacts and symbols. These works taken to be signs are as much our own projections of the inside energy turning out as they are of the outside force returning to us. In this way we experience the creative as secret sacraments, a structured encounter with the mystical converging within us and converting the infideliest. Though our self awareness of inner invention may distinguish us from the other inhabitants of the animal kingdom, we are oblivious to the instability and transience of our situation. While most may walk the road to Damascus, few are moved to change direction or act upon a penetrating experience.

We do indeed become the company we keep. Our world is negotiated. There is no autonomous man who’s life springs fully formed from his forehead like Athena. Our natural attraction to variety may be as much a biological imperative for survival as a diversion from the mundane. Artists and economists alike reside in colonies – The Left Bank, the Bloomsbury Group, the Chicago School. While some recent studies suggest that large groups are more productive in producing innovation they are silent as to the quality of this work. Look to the great and enduring from painters to Nobel Laureates and creative clusters become self evident. We may all be equal in the eyes of God but we enjoy no such luck when it comes to talent. While these movements and schools of thought are the machinations of master artisans competing and conspiring within a geography and epoch they are easily recognized from other cultures and eras because their principles and goals are fixed in the material – Impressionism, the Beat Generation, Magical Realism.

We must forge authentic shared goals with those worthy of our ambitions; not the trifles of the heroic narcissist bandied about – a new boat, unimaginable wealth, a hot babe. These visible articulations of our internal life are to be treasured and pursued as on a pilgrimage for this is indeed our calling or at least the next destination. We dare not tarry. They will keep us on track together and bring back around when we are lost. They are hidden logic of our reckoning and the basis or our ongoing and the basis or our ongoing conversation. More importantly, they give us our only real way to see our blind spots.

  • Align the aims and actions

 

Jeff DeGraff

Jeff DeGraff, Ph.D., is a professor at University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

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